A graduate of Oxford, actor Hugh Grant would seem more a natural product of Cambridge University, breeding ground for such comic talents as Monty Python's Flying Circus. Although his classic good looks make him a shoo-in for romantic leads, Grant's comic capabilities -- marked by a nervous stutter, desperately fluttering eyelids, and an ability to capture a brand of distinctly English embarrassment -- have marked him as more of a comic performer than a serious leading man. Born in London on September 9, 1960, Grant made his film debut under the very Oxbridge name of Hughie Grant in the Oxford-financed Privileged (1982). He then worked in repertory before forming his own comedy troupe, the Jockeys of Norfolk. Following some television roles, Grant made his first professional film appearance in 1987 with a blink-and-he's-gone part in White Mischief. The same year he did more substantial work, first as Lord Byron in Rowing With the Wind, and then as a sexually conflicted Edwardian in Ismail Merchant and James Ivory's adaptation of E.M. Forster's Maurice. The role won him a Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival, but despite such acclaim, Grant's next films were largely forgettable affairs. One exception -- albeit a dubious one -- was Ken Russell's The Lair of the White Worm, in which the actor attained some degree of cult status as a lord attempting to foil the murderous charms of a campy, trampy vampire (Amanda Donahoe).
Following period work in Impromptu (in which he played a consumptive, bewigged Chopin) and another Merchant-Ivory outing, The Remains of the Day, Grant finally hit it big in 1994 with starring roles in two films, Sirens and Four Weddings and a Funeral. The latter film in particular gave the actor almost overnight transatlantic stardom, landing him on a number of magazine covers and TV talk shows. The following year, Grant gained fame of an entirely different sort when he was arrested for soliciting the services of an L.A. prostitute. The box-office take of his subsequent film, Nine Months, released on the heels of his arrest, was buoyed by his notoriety, as were the ratings of the episode of The Tonight Show which featured Grant's sheepish apology to his then-girlfriend, model/actress Elizabeth Hurley.
The actor managed to recoup some of his professional dignity with a restrained performance as Emma Thompson's suitor in the acclaimed Sense and Sensibility, but his next feature, Extreme Measures, a thriller produced by his and Hurley's production company, Simian Films, proved a disappointment. Following this relative failure, Grant receded somewhat from the public consciousness, but reappeared in 1999 with Notting Hill. A commercial as well as relative critical success, the comedy helped to restore some of the actor's luster, further assisted by his roles in the comedies Mickey Blue Eyes (1999) and Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks (2000). After once again charming filmgoers while competing for the affections of Rene Zellwegger in Bridget Jones's Diary, Grant took on the role of a playful London lothario who forms a bond with one of his conquests' offspring in the romantic comedy About a Boy.
After Bridget 1, Hugh suffered the loss of his mother, then took on About A Boy, directed by American Pie duo Paul and Chris Weitz. Here he played Will Freeman, a 38-year-old who, due to inherited wealth, has never worked and never taken on any responsibilities. With all his friends now married and unable to join in his shenanigans, he pretends to be a single father and tries to meet single mothers who, he figures, he can easily leave should they demand commitment. But he takes a shine to Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), 12-year-old son of suicidal hippy Toni Collette, and then falls for beautiful illustrator Rachel Weisz. What to do? What to do? As he tries to teach unhappy Marcus how to be cool, Marcus teaches him how to grow up. The movie was a big hit, with Hugh widening his range with a scruffy hairdo and North London accent, and portraying a selfish streak even more impressively than he had done in Bridget Jones's Diary.
Having played yet another cad when providing the voice of Blitzen, Robbie The Reindeer's arch enemy in the US version of The Legend Of The Lost Tribe (reprising the role he'd played in 1999's Hooves Of Fire), he moved on to another big American rom-com, Two Weeks Notice (a movie annoyingly lacking an apostrophe). Here he played a Donald Trump type, making millions by "modernizing" New York communities - that is, pulling all the beautiful old buildings down. On his case is liberal activist Sandra Bullock who he now hires as his attorney. But she soon tires of her role as his all-round gofer, only to suffer pangs of jealousy when she sees him being hit on by her hard-nosed replacement Alicia Witt. Could these disparate characters possibly fall in love? Well, Americans spent $93 million at the box office to find out - Grant was still big news.
As ever in Grant's career, Richard Curtis was never far away, and he now showed up again with his directorial debut Love, Actually. This saw many different tales of love interwoven, with Hugh playing a bumbling but strangely efficient British Prime Minister, who falls for tea-girl Martine McCutcheon and follows her into the poorer environs of London to win her heart. Curtis would then show up as script doctor when Grant returned to a previous hit with Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason. This time Bridget has dumped Darcy and Hugh's beastly Daniel Cleaver moves in for the kill, once again getting into a hilariously ungainly scrap with his rival. Grant would claim that, with such a long gap between Love, Actually and Bridget 2, he had terrible trouble with his lines and even suffered stagefright.
Still close to Elizabeth Hurley, it was he who, at the end of 2001, told police that stalker Petr Mihalovic was sending her abusive letters demanding she abort her baby. But Hugh himself remained single, in 2003 seeing Polish-born UN worker Kasia Komorowicz but not hitting the tabloid headlines until he was spotted in 2004 with Jemima Khan, recently separated from her husband Imran. When not working, he'd either be playing golf with such buddies as Kyle MacLachlan, or be lounging about in his £3 million, 7th-floor flat in Kensington, complete with terrace, barbecue and a rising movie screen at the foot of the bed.
Hugh Grant earning $12.5 million for Two Weeks Notice, is now Britain's most successful comic actor, a position he neither understands nor particularly likes. "I've never had a burning desire to get ahead in Hollywood," he told Empire in 2002. "Here I was in this joke job of acting, thinking it'd be a laugh before I did something more serious, and just as I was about to get out, Four Weddings happened." Hugh later stated that he hoped his film stardom would just be "a phase", hopefully lasting no more than ten years.
So, Hugh Grant may well be saying farewell to cinema in the very near future. Enjoy him while you can.
Hugh Grant: Two Weeks Notice
When it comes to playing the shallow cad, Hugh Grant seems to have that market cornered. At least lately. He shone playing that kind of character in Bridget Jones' Diary, and returns in fine form as the selfishly egotistical, wealthy corporate boss opposite Sandra Bullock's idealistic lawyer in Two Weeks Notice. "That's very nice of you to think that I'm good at playing those kinds of roles", says a self-effacing Grant in a New York hotel room. "I think it's bizarre, because I think of myself as a rather deep and meaningful person and not really interested in the superficialities of life." Well, not really, one can tell by the slight grin. He clearly relishes playing the comic rogue, though. "Actors tend to like anything devilish, which is always more fun than being Mister goody two shoes, of which I've done my fair share, and let me tell you that stuff is really hard." Such as those characters in Notting Hill or Four Weddings and A Funeral, which Grant says are "really based on the guy who wrote them, Richard Curtis. That's really hard to pull of and not be obnoxious, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who think they ARE obnoxious. On the other hand, if you're being slightly devilish, shallow and womanizing, audiences are much more sympathetic towards you," Grant laughingly admits. The actor even feels a sense of identification with these kinds of characters. "There's a certain amount of wish fulfilment, of: Oh I could have ended up like one of these guys, so it's quite fun to live out that life, now."
The 42-year old Brit, who not only has the market cornered on being the selfish cad, but a certain type of romantic comedy in which he snugly fits. Finding a good script is often a challenge. "That's where the trouble goes in that you have to just reject everything that isn't incredibly well written; that's my only real secret in this game," admits the actor. "It means I turn down 990 scripts out of a thousand, then when you find one that's good you grab it with both hands. After that you keep working at it, keep bullying the writer and make sure it's as good as it possibly can be." And then of course you need your perfect comic partner. In the case of Two Weeks Notice, it's old friend Sandra Bullock. "Sandra and I have been trying to do it for years and years [work together that is, let me clarify that.]", Grants says laughingly. "I don't know why she'd want to work with ME, but I wanted to work with her just because I've always admired her, thought she's the girl, queen of that kind of stuff. She's a brilliant comedienne, sort of gorgeous and charming and I just thought that could work and I think it helps with the chemistry a little bit, if there's a part of you that quite fancies the person you're doing ii with."
Grant may come across as a good-humoured, nice guy, but the one thing that riles him is the press. More often than not kind to Hugh, there have been moments where he feels the media has gone too far. Rumours were flying thick and fast, for example, that all was not well on the set of Two Weeks Notice. Though Grant admits that there's nothing one can do about what is written by misinformed journalists, nevertheless he doesn't handle it well. "I'm enraged. If someone prints a blatant lie about you or the film you've worked on really hard, you do grind your teeth. How could you not?" questions the angry actor. He also has opinions about the whole celebrity/media circus that exists in today's Hollywood. "I don't mind promoting a film, that's absolutely fine; you do a press junket, that's great, as you get a chance to talk about the film and everything. But apart from that, I don't personally feel that actors have ANY responsibility to cooperate with the celebrity soap opera that sells magazines and TV shows around the world. I really think my only duty is to try and make a film that's entertaining. So if I'm chased in the street by a photographer, and I say, ‘Please go away, I'm doing my shopping, and they say, ‘Ah, but you love it' The truthful honest answer is that, no, I DON'T love it, and nor do I need it in any shape or form. All I know is that my films are good and I am not crap in them." Grant disagrees that a lot of young actors seek publicity. "That's a myth. I have never come across anybody who does that. Perhaps at the very lowest depths of soap operas or something there are some actors who want that stuff, but I have literally never come across anyone who was ever done this mythical thing of setting up a photo opportunity or courting publicity. You do a film or you do a TV thing, you promote it, and beyond that, that's it. I really don't know anyone who's out to be a celebrity for celebrity's sake, and if they are they're sick."
As for him handling the paparazzi, here are the rules according to the always dashing Mr Grant. "You should just always smile, that's what politicians do. You smile within the focal range of their camera so they can't get a picture, and then you kick them fucking hard in the kneecaps. Then of course you walk away regretting it bitterly."
It's hard to imagine that Hugh has been a professional actor since the early eighties, but it was the low-budget hit comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral that escalated his career, and led to an ongoing professional relationship with Richard Curtis. Grant says that nobody was more surprised than Curtis of the effect that Four Weddings would have on either career. "In terms of catapulting my career, or of me having a career, I think it was a great surprise to Richard, who had seen some of my previous work and enjoys quoting it back to me. He's got all those tapes. But it was shocking that the film became such a big thing, and I don't know what it shows. I mean, with Richard's stuff in general, he's one of the few people who dare to actually write about love and about people liking each other, which is all very unhip. But it seems that deep down, people actually want that stuff as long as you're funny enough while you're doing it."
Having recently completed Curtis' latest script, Love Actually [which was also directed by the scribe himself], Grant describes it as "an ensemble piece, like 'Short Cuts' but funny." He plays "a fictional prime minister who falls in love with the girl who brings in his tea every day." Definitely not a womanising cad this time around. "No, he's not. He's a pretty charismatic, nice Prime Minister with his heart in the right place. He's interested in Third World relief, coincidentally all the things that Richard Curtis is interested in politically."
While Grant excels in being comedically romantic on screen, off screen, he has a more barbed view of romance, agreeing, that "perhaps I am a bit cynical. But very often the older you get the more open you get, so I hope I'm getting a bit warmer and nicer." He also jumps back and forth on that whole quitting acting line which he often throws around. "I'm truly schizophrenic about that. I have days, mornings, when I think, ‘yeah, this is a good job. It's going well. I like it and other days when I think it's demeaning and ghastly. Also there's too much pressure, especially these days with this madness of films having to be huge opening films and all that. What I found out reading that book ‘Easy Rider, whatever it's called, is that films always used to be platform release, in that you put it out in a few cinemas, if people liked it, boom, they'd make it bigger and bigger. That's the way to do it! This is a form of sort of masochism to put all this incredible pressure on a weekend. Not to mention I think a terrible waste of money."
If he were to ever give up acting, Grant admits that he might concentrate on directing, "or go and write my novel that I've been talking about for 16 years. I've had a thing in my head for years and years, but God knows if I'll ever do it. The problem now is that I'm potentially the idle rich, really. I used to be the idle poor, which is a big difference," says Grant, laughingly.
Hugh Grant in "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason"
Hugh Grant clearly would rather be anywhere else than a large Beverly Hills hotel room in front of prying media. Affable enough, and even good humoured at times, Grant responds with an often quick-witted brevity to questions about the creepy arseholes he plays with such effortless glee. "It's sweet of you to say that," he says smilingly when I suggest he has a knack of playing arseholes so well, as he does yet again in the latest chapter of Bridget Jones. "Now, I quite like it, because for years I sat in these interviews and everyone said, 'you're always Mister Nice Guy, so why don't you ever play someone nasty?' So in fact it's been a relief for the real me to come out more on camera," Grant says in his typical self-deprecating way. "I don't have any particular burning desire to go back to being cuddly.
In Bridget Jones, Edge of Reason, Hugh returns to his guise as the bed-hopping Daniel Cleaver, playing him, yet again, with obvious relish, as the character heads to TV as the host of a travel show. Grant admits that doing the sequel to the original hit comedy, took a lot of convincing. "I'm always quite difficult, but I was really impossible on this one, and there was a lot of coming and going about the script and my part. To begin with, I was not convinced that Daniel Cleaver could ever go into television, a medium he despises, but I got my head around that and did a lot of work on just sort of trying to keep the cleverness of Daniel. I always thought one of the mitigating factors for him in the first film, was that he wasn't just an arsehole, but actually quite a clever arsehole. I wanted to try and maintain that, so in things like his presentations to the camera in doing the smooth guide, I just tried to make them relatively clever." Asked whether a character like Cleaver can change, Grant says emphatically not. "I think the short answer is that he can't. Funnily enough, I think that if he has changed, he'd change for the worse, not the better."
Not one to appear in a sequel, Grant says trhat some sequels are worthy, but they remain in the minority. "I don't think they're automatically to be despised. I've seen sequels that are - The Godfather, he throws out nervously, racking his brains for another example." And as with the original, yet again, Hugh and like Grant's fictional alter ego in the Bridget Jones films, the actor has steadfastly refused to marry, and while the British tabloids seem determined to see him tie the knot sooner than later, Grant says that he has other battles with Britain's tabloids, other than his marriage plans. "Ah, I don't feel THAT pressure. I mean, I feel other pressure from the British tabloids, but I don't feel that particular pressure," he insists, snickering at the mention of the British media.
Over the years, Hugh Grant has continued to make noises about giving up acting, as he insists on saying how the difficult the profession has become. Even during the course of this interview, Grant refers to film acting as "just a miserable experience . . . it's so long, boring and so difficult to get right so that what you need above all is incredible willpower and strength of mind." Asked whether that means Hugh is finally ready to give up the screen, the actor hedges his bets as much as possible. "Well, I haven't done very much for about three years. I think I've just done that smallish part in Love Actually and the smallish part in this film, so I'm sort of semi-retired."
Not even a return to the stage holds huge interest. "It's true that the stage is fun, but I can never justify it completely in my head because although I think it's really fun for the performers, my experience as an audience member is 19 times out of 20 I think it's purgatory to sit watching a play.. I think people keep going more, out of a sense of duty, like churchgoing, than anything else," remarks Grant. But should we see the last of Grant on screen, he says that perhaps he might give screenwriting a shot. "I'm sure I've said to you a billion times that I keep thinking I'm about to write a brilliant script," which of course he has not, he adds quickly. "I've done bugger all, all year and feel ashamed of myself."
So perhaps we have seen the last of Hugh Grant? Only if Richard Curtis comes a calling. "Yeah, old friends and things and this one - that seems fine. But I'm not in a hurry to go and sit in big development meetings and make great big commercial films. I do have a touch of apathy about that."
No wedding bells for Hugh Grant, Jemima Khan
Actor Hugh Grant's girlfriend Jemima Khan has played down reports that she and the movie star are to wed.
The ex-wife of Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, said that they were not engaged and she has no plans to step down the aisle yet.
"Well, the answer's no, you won't be expecting that," Ananova quoted her as saying during a recent interview with GMTV.
During the interview, the Unicef ambassador, who has been dating Grant since last June, insisted on talking about Unicef's new report on child exploitation.
"I'll make you a promise. If you ask me back another time, I will give you all the salacious gossip you could possibly want, but for now, better to focus on Unicef," she said.
Earlier, Hugh Grant and Jemima Khan's parents were spotted having lunch together at the weekend, sparking rumours the couple are set to tie the knot.
Hugh and Jemima's dream island is overrun with tourists!
Hollywood star Hugh Grant, who was reportedly eying a super-private estate in France with girlfriend Jemima Khan, might reconsider before splashing 50 million dollars on the Sainte-Marguerite island, as sources have claimed the island is actually 'not so private'.
According to The New York Post, David Duffy, who keeps a boat there, said that Sainte-Marguerite is overrun with tourists in high season.
"There are so many yachts moored in the harbor you can practically walk across them to the mainland," Duffy was quoted as saying.
So if it's privacy Grant and Khan are after, forget it - "It would be a bit like putting up a tent in Central Park," he said.